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Dan Cruickshank’s Spitalfields Photographs

June 13, 2021
by the gentle author

Dan Cruickshank took these photographs – many of which are published here for the first time – between 1969 when he first came to Spitalfields and 1977 when he led the campaign to stop British Land destroying Elder St. “I did it to document the buildings that were here then,” he explained to me in regret, “but sometimes you’d go back the next Saturday and there’d be virtually nothing left.”

Barrowmakers in Wheler St

Baker in Quaker St

Quaker St and Railway Dwellings

Junction of Bethnal Green Rd & Redchurch St

Weaver’s House at the corner of Bacon St & Brick Lane

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, now demolished

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, only those in foreground remain

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, now demolished

Corner of Sclater St & Brick Lane

Houses in Hanbury St, now demolished

Houses in Hanbury St, now demolished

Old House in Calvin St, now demolished

Elaborate doorcase in Wilkes St, now gone

Brushfield St

Brushfield St, buildings on the right now demolished

Brushfield St, buildings on the right now demolished

Buildings in Brushfield St, now demolished

Brushfield St, buildings on the left now demolished

Looking from Brushfield St towards Norton Folgate

Selling Christmas trees in Spital Sq

Spital Sq with St Botolph’s Hall

Folgate St with Dennis Severs’ House in the foreground, houses in the background now demolished

House in Folgate St, now demolished

5 & 7 Elder St during squat to prevent complete demolition by British Land

Partial demolition of 5 & 7 Elder St

Rear of 5 & 7 Elder St during partial demolition

Inside 7 Elder St

Douglas Blain of Spitalfields Trust reads a paper in the loft of 7 Elder St after the roof was removed

Alleyway off Folgate St

Photographs copyright © Dan Cruickshank

You may also like to take a look at

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields

20 Responses leave one →
  1. Jane Jones permalink
    June 13, 2021

    I could hardly bear to look at these photos. What a tragic waste – such awful cultural vandalism.

  2. Peter Hart permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Wonderful photos but sad to see the words ‘now demolished’ under most of them. Thank you.

  3. Susan Taylor permalink
    June 13, 2021

    The houses in Hanbury Street, when would they have been built?

  4. Paola Moore permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Through family on my father’s side we had connections to many of these streets. I couldn’t bear to look at all the photos as I realized so much had been lost. It made me feel so sad, a deep sense of loss came over me even though they are only brick and mortar, the history cried out but wasn’t heard.

  5. Barbara holliman permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Breaks my heart, still going on.
    Thoughtless vandalism.

  6. paul loften permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Its not all cultural vadalism. So many of the houses were no longer fit for human habitaion. I remember where my father lived as a child in Raven Row behind the London Hospital . We would visit his mother who lived there until the mid 60 ‘s . All you could do with them was knock them down and rebuild . Naturally took this as the green light for everything. Give them an inch and they took miles

  7. June 13, 2021

    Design legend Alexander Girard said:

    “I believe we should preserve the evidence of the past, not as a pattern for sentimental imitation but as nourishment for the creative spirit of the present.”

    Even in their diminished condition, these vintage buildings provide so much nourishment; and (in theory) should inspire current-day urban designers. Yet, we end up with soul-less towers and disposable architecture.

    Thanks for always shining a light, GA.

  8. Mark. permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Great pics.
    Jack the Riipper stalked these streets followed by Joe Orton stalking labourers.

  9. Cherub permalink
    June 13, 2021

    So sad to see lovely old buildings that perhaps could have been restored were instead demolished. I spent a couple of years working in Spitalfields at the tail end of the 90s and have fond memories of the area’s vibrancy and friendliness, I would have loved to have been able to live there.

  10. Duncan McAra permalink
    June 13, 2021

    “I knew well that ghosts can cling stubbornly to life and that sometimes they are more present than the living.”
    Philippe Claudel, ‘Brodeck’s Report’ (2009)

  11. Adele Lester permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Brushfield St – walked through there every day on way to and from school in Spital Square. How sad to see it looking so desolate. Even though it’s all now rebuilt, mostly with glass edifices reaching for the sky, the beautiful old buildings are sorely missed.

  12. June 13, 2021

    Incredible images taken by Dan C, but heartbreaking to know how much of it has been demolished. Criminal!

  13. June 13, 2021


  14. C Scofield permalink
    June 13, 2021

    So glad for your foresight in taking these wonderful photos.

  15. Bernie permalink
    June 13, 2021

    Susan Taylor’s question about the age of the houses in Hanbury St really addresses a key question: whether due to natural decay and disintegration it is inevitable that an area like Sptalfields should fall into ruin and be reconstructed in a new form — the fate befalling various parts of it at present (e.g. the British Land rebuild) and bemoaned by many, including me.

    I do not know the answer. Evidently some premises have been revitalised, but it is not clear whether or (espec. financially) how a larger area could be rescued and rebuilt.

    I wish that some authoritative opinions could be expressed here. They might either save a lot of needless anxiety or else point out a secure way forward.

  16. Johnny C permalink
    June 13, 2021

    … a bit too far East for Joe I reckon.

  17. Vicki Fox permalink
    June 13, 2021

    How sad to have lost so much. Louis Phillips’ shopfront was a good example of the early Victorian era. Dickens would have recognised it.

  18. Eric Forward permalink
    June 14, 2021

    Very sad, but what a champion for the area Dan has been. Inspirational.

  19. June 14, 2021

    How could ‘they’?

  20. David Ruderman permalink
    June 22, 2021

    Thank you Dan.

    My Great Grandfather had a paper shop just up the road at No 71.

    ‘Further west up Hanbury Street at number 71 was a bookshop and newsagent run by an anarchist couple,the Rudermans , both born around 1865-6 in the Russian Empire (at Haradok, now in Belarus). Baruch Ruderman, known sometimes as Barnett Ruderman in British newspaper reports and censuses, had been a student at the Yeshiva (Talmudic school) at Volozhin, in what was then Lithuania and is now Belarus. It was the most prestigious Yeshiva within the Russian Empire. After some of his fellow students introduced him to secular studies and to Russian and German books, he had “severe clashes with his fanatically religious parents he broke with Judaism. He arrived in London at the end of winter 1882 ( other sources say 1884) and two years later moved to socialism. He was a pioneer of the Jewish workers movement in London and one of the founders of the Arbeter Fraint Club. Ruderman branched out from bookselling to publishing in the following years, being the first to publish radical books in Yiddish in England. Among these were several additions of the writings of the anarchist poet David Edelstadt (1892, 1900 and then 1911) as well as works by Gorky, many of these publications appearing under the imprint of Rudermans Folḳs Bibliyoṭheḳ.’

    I wonder if anyone has a photo?

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